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Dance and Movement to Enter Altered States of Consciousness

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Steve Backinoff

Since time immemorial, humans have used dance and body movements to enter altered states of consciousness. While a lot of us remember spinning in circles as a kid, only a fraction of us pursue movement to reach an altered state.

We move for exercise or performance, maybe, but humans of the past hammered on drums, stomped the ground, and moved their bodies to get in touch with primal energies. Steve Backinoff still does that. And he’s not alone.

Backinoff and people around the globe come together in a practice called Dances of Universal Peace.

"Mostly what these dances are about is, first of all, connecting with your own heart, and then connecting with the other beings who are in the circle with you, and then sending that out to the world. So we're kind of creating a peaceful community by doing these simple phrases and simple movements — and then by that, sending out that feeling to everyone," Backinoff said.

Backinoff was introduced to these dances in the mid-'70s when a friend of a friend said, "Hey there’s a dance in the desert tonight!"

"I fell in love with it that night. And that was in 1974 and here I am in 2021 — I lead the dances and I travel around the world. These dances are everywhere," he said.

Backinoff and the Dances of Universal Peace ʻohana on Kauaʻi have been dancing in a COVID-19 bubble through the pandemic.

This interview aired on The Aloha Friday Conversation on Sept. 24, 2021.

Noe Tanigawa covers art, culture and ideas for Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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